Great teaching is one of the most effective and efficient ways to ensure that all students can achieve their best outcomes in education.
Evidence shows that high-quality teaching is the element which has the biggest impact, closely followed by great leadership.
However, neither of these are easy to achieve. Teacher development, and the leadership of such, is a complex issue and research shows that historically CPD hasn’t always had the desired impact, with a significant gap between what teachers know and what they can do with that in the classroom.
The CUREE report, commissioned by the Training and Development Agency to review teacher development, found that barely one per cent of CPD had a ‘transforming’ impact on classroom practice and therefore the outcomes of students.
That equates to a lot of time devoted to it, with very little to show. So how can great leaders utilise the lessons we have learnt about curriculum planning and learning over the last few years, in order to ensure teacher development has the desire impact?
First it is important to know where we are heading; the vision or purpose of the CPD we are developing. Curriculum is a journey we want to take people on, and developing teachers is no different.
Clarity around the purpose is essential, as is understanding what our destination will look like.
This takes time to plan, and it is important to first carefully diagnose what the issues we want to address are, identify the levers which could have the biggest impact – and understand where our staff are and what they need to know and do to build upon their current practice.
Once this has been identified we need to consider if we have the right conditions for this to happen. If CPD is not valued or if people aren’t invested in their development, it is unlikely to have much of an impact.
Equally, if we are considering making big changes at a time when people are already pulled in many different directions, CPD can easily end up becoming a list of things to do, not things to understand and develop.
This means creating a culture of improvement, one that focuses on honest and open reflections about practice, as well as one where people feel they are trusted to explore new approaches and be open about when things go wrong.
We can learn a lot from when things haven’t worked, and people need to feel safe to examine that. We need staff buy in if we want to make a change, so they need to see they are a valued part of the process.
Once these conditions for growth have been established, you need to consider the steps and stages you will go through to get to your desired destination.
Consider the milestones, points of assessment and opportunities for reflection which will ensure you are on the right track. Learning needs to be layered over time and changing teacher habits, or any habits, needs time, focus and concentration.
Look for those small steps needed just as you would when guiding your students through a curriculum. You may decide that some people need to be on a slightly different course, some accelerating though, some diverting a little or slowing down.
Experts need different approaches to novices, but if people feel involved in deciding that route, they are more likely to stay on the path with you.
Most importantly when building a curriculum for your CPD you need to invest time. Time to plan, reflect, discuss, and evaluate. No journey like this will happen overnight.
There may be bumps along the road. But if you get this right it could start to transform things for your students.
Developing a cohesive and structured approach to CPD, which values adult learning as much as that of their students, is one of the best ways to ensure too that learning is something we value well beyond the school gates.
Zoe Enser is the lead specialist English adviser for Kent working with The Education People and an evidence lead in education (ELE). Her new book The CPD Curriculum, co-authored with Mark Enser, is out now and is available at crownhouse.co.uk/the-cpd-curriculum.